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Comments Posted By brahma dasa

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The Lower Birth of Women

Devaki devi dasi,

The mission statement on your website calls for “the re-spiritualization of the entire human society” but you say that ladies who don’t subscribe to your world-view that women are less intelligent/must be subservient to men should avoid your course. In other words the vast majority of women (and men) in the western world should avoid your course.

Your course is restricted (fine)—but the general course of Krsna consciousness is open to all regardless of their socio-political worldview. In other words, women are not required to be subservient to men or believe themselves ‘less intelligent’ to practice Krsna consciousness and perfect their lives. So ultimately it doesn’t matter if they are career women or housewives because there is no material qualification to practice Krsna consciousness. In other words, if a businessman can be Krsna conscious so can a businesswomen, to think otherwise is material.

Not only are modern non-devotee women loathe to accept the doctrine of subservience to men, but a large number of Iskcon women are re-considering it as well; particularly as so many Iskcon men have utterly failed them in this regard.

Consider this note I received from an Iskcon devotee:

Dear Brahma Prabhu,

I have been a faithful devotee in Iskcon for many years. I appreciate the balanced and relevant way that you have approached the subject (of women). This brings up the point of how those who consider themselves the followers of Srila Prabhupada want to take his statements on women. Taking them verbatim for all time seems to be one reason why ISKCON is so bogged down with the problems it is having in this area. Don’t you think that continuing in this way will make ISKCON more and more irrelevant to educated people as time marches on?

My answer to this question is yes, I do think that in modern times preaching that women are less intelligent than men etc. will make Iskcon more and more irrelevant to educated people. (Particularly when such preaching is based on erroneous information such as women’s brains are half the size as mens).

So my point here is that ‘less intelligent/subservient to men’ may work for you and some other good ladies of Iskcon (and that’s fine with me) but the doctrine is not absolute—not true and applicable in all circumstances—therefore it is subject to reconsideration and adjustment.

Iskcon must do this or remain irrelevant to educated people in the modern world.

All the best, brahma dasa

» Posted By brahma dasa On Oct 30, 2014 @ 7:14 am

If the Institute for Spiritual Culture actually wants to bring about “a cultural revolution for the re-spiritualization of the entire human society” it must distill the essential teachings of the tradition from the inessential teachings, and prioritize the former.

The notion that women are less intelligent–are never to be given independence etc. are not the essential teachings of Krsna consciousness. They are what Bhaktivinode referred to as the cultural baggage of the tradition and as such are subject to revision.

Intelligent, educated, independent, career women are certainly eligible to practice Krsna consciousness, and doing so they are not obliged to subscribe to the notion that they are less intelligent or are required to become subservient to men.

Why? Because cultural teachings taken primarily from the dharma shastras are subject to time and place consideration and adjustment. This is what Srila Prabhupada did when he created the brahmacharini asrama (which he admitted was not Vedic), and when he permitted his sanyassi disciples to don wigs and western clothes for preaching.

In these cases and many others Srila Prabhupada adjusted the cultural tradition in subservience to the ideal (Krsna consciousness) establishing precedence that his spiritual master had not. He did not freeze the cultural tradition to the time of his guru and neither should his followers as cultural revision is necessary to keep the essential spirituality of the tradition vibrant in face of ever changing times.

ISKCON has demonstrated some understanding of this in considering the ‘women diksa guru’ question and putting women on the GBC etc. but much more needs to be done.

In any case it should be fully understood that teachings on “the subservience of women to men” etc. are not absolute or essential principles of Krsna consciousness.

» Posted By brahma dasa On Oct 24, 2014 @ 7:45 pm

Faith in Srila Prabhupada implies the conviction that he realized the purport of the scriptures and was devotionally perfect, it doesn’t require belief that he never made a mistake on any subject.

Bhaktivinoda Thukura discusses this issue in his Sri Krsna Samhita where he refers to artha-prada or relative information based on time and circumstance, and paramartha prada or the absolute or essential teachings of the tradition. According to Bhaktivinoda, relative information can be incomplete or incorrect even though it might be found in scripture or spoken by a self-realized devotee.

To emphasize this point he states that one is free to disregard relative information in his own writings if it is found to be incorrect. Such relative information would include the misinformation on women’s brain size that Srila Prabhupada attributed to Dr. Urquhart, a professor at Scottish Churches College the institution that he attended in Calcutta. 



Correcting such misinformation is not a mater of faithlessness; rather it’s an act faithful to the heart and soul of Srila Prabhupada, his mission to spread Krsna consciousness. Whereas preaching such misinformation is a disservice and an embarrassment to him.

Why? Because he wanted his devotees to become known as ‘the intelligent class of men” not as fools and fanatics who are unable to even correct outdated misinformation.

Actually, weak faith (komal sruddha) is reflected in the notion that the guru cannot make a mistake, or if he does so his teachings are not perfect. Purity and devotion are what makes the guru perfect. In the material world mistakes here and there are inevitable—so says Bhagavad gita.

» Posted By brahma dasa On Oct 22, 2014 @ 6:24 pm

Its an embarrassment to his movement and legacy to preach misinformation that Srila Prabhupada had heard from Dr. Urquhart almost 100 years ago as if it were the absolute truth.

Women’s brains are not half the size of men’s brains. On average they are less than 10% smaller, which has to do with their smaller body mass. Large men also have slightly larger brains than smaller men but we don’t preach that large men are more intelligent than small men because they have larger brains.

Some studies show that on average women score a few points below men on IQ tests, but this is largely attributed to enculturation. That is if you are taught that you are less intelligent–you will think that you are less intelligent–and you will act as if you are less intelligent i.e. you will not expect as much from yourself.

This is clearly the case in many third world cultures where women are routinely discriminated against in the matter of education. Those who are somehow able to escape such cultures do as well in school as their male counterparts, which should tell us something about male vs female intelligence.

And by the way, a young women just won the nobel peace prize because she was shot by religious fanatics because of her campaign for equal educational opportunity for women. So in this day and age how does preaching that women are less intelligent than men help to spread the practice of Krishna consciousness?

» Posted By brahma dasa On Oct 21, 2014 @ 11:53 pm

Sridhar Swami and Mayapur

At $4000 to $5000 a week (not covered by health insurance) Gerson and Hippocrates retreats are beyond the means of most devotees. Their therapies, which are juiced based and vegan, are beneficial and can be practiced at home if one is determined and willing to buy an expensive juicer and give up fried foods, dairy, sugar, etc. They both claim to have had success in curing cancer but of course there is no guarantee, and on the internet you can find stories of desperate families who spent their savings and more fighting cancer through Hippocrates Institute to no avail.

However, now that ISKCON is financed largely by donations from its congregation it might be proper for centers to purchase health insurance for all its full time monastics, as does the Catholic Church.

brahma

» Posted By brahma dasa On May 4, 2014 @ 4:57 pm

Why I am not vegan

In the United States alone, at any given time some 90 million cows, 65 million pigs, and billions of chickens etc. are being maintained for the purpose of slaughter.

Among these some 35 million cows, 112 million pigs, 8 billion chickens, and other species to a total of 9.1 billion animals were slaughtered in the US in 2013.

The running inventory of 90 million cows, plus the billions of other farm animals being maintained for slaughter produce millions of tons of dung that is currently used in agriculture.

Therefore if it’s B12 rich cow dung that you want than it would be practically impossible to beat the meat industry, which not only produces fertilizer for crops but also provides food for 300 million people in the US, and for much of the rest of the world as well.

The point being presentations attempting to promote cow protection from the material perspective cannot stand up to economic or ecological scrutiny. I include ecological because no accredited ecologist would support the idea of perpetually maintaining five cows for the sake of milking one. How many cows would have to be maintained to supply milk for 300 million people? How much grain would have to be planted to feed all the extra cows? How much oil would have to be burned to produce and ship the grain to feed all the extra cows?

However, cow protection, at least on a small scale, does make sense as a sadhana or spiritual practice because spiritual practice is not judged by the same criteria as materialistic efforts. For example, every Muslim is required to make a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in a lifetime. Three million Muslims do this every year even though going on pilgrimage doesn’t make any economic or ecological sense regardless of the religion one belongs to. Indeed, pilgrims are trampled to death almost every year at the Haj, and the same goes for Kumba Mela or Rathayatra in Puri. Still people go on pilgrimage because it is a spiritual practice, and for most some type of spiritual practice is a necessary part of life.

Similarly cow protection is a spiritual practice, a labor of love that fosters devotion and compassion–from this perspective (the spiritual perspective) it makes perfect sense.

brahma

» Posted By brahma dasa On May 15, 2014 @ 12:23 am

This article is not well balanced as it purposefully omits information crucial to an informed understanding of the matter.

To begin with it extols the value of cow dung in enriching the soil with B12 but gives short shift to the fact that any type of manure or organic compost does likewise including composted human waste. Indeed, the original 1978 master plan for Gita Nagari Eco Village called for composting toilets designed to turn human waste into fertilizer.

More importantly the article doesn’t mention anything of the cost in manpower and resources needed to maintain a protected dairy herd nor discuss whether or not such an endeavor is even possible without the support of donations.

And lets take a look at the pejorative the author was fond to bandy about in relation to vegan purists; the word “fanatic” which refers to a person who is inordinately or unreasonably enthusiastic about a cause, usually religious or political.

The question then is whether maintaining an ever-expanding herd of bulls and dry cows for the sake of a few milkers and a big pile of cow dung, is in this day and age a reasonable alternative to producing and shaking a little B-12 rich nutritional yeast on ones daily bowl of brown rice and veggies.

Nutritional yeast is cheep and easy to produce while the cost to maintain a protected dairy herd is prohibitory, and at this point cannot be accomplished without the support of donations and voluntary labor.

So between cow protection and vegan purism, which would be considered by most objective (non devotee) readers to be inordinately or unreasonably enthusiastic? Probably both.

The point is that it is the spiritual perspective that makes cow protection reasonable to the faithful. The material perspective is at best secondary.

brahma

» Posted By brahma dasa On May 2, 2014 @ 4:07 am

Ocean of Mercy: Bhakti Benefits for Doomed Cows?

Drinking cows milk is a material activity that is not essential (absolutely necessary) for spiritual development. If drinking milk were an intrinsically spiritual act then all the children in the world who were raised on cow’s milk would be spiritually advanced–but we see that they are not.

Drinking milk, like other material activities becomes spiritualized in association with bhakti.

Bhakti is User Friendly–it can be introduced and thrive in almost any situation. Therefore it matters not whether the practitioner is a Republican or a Democrat, lives in the city or the country, prefers Beethoven or the Beatles, or is a lacto-vegetarian or a vegan—Bhakti can be effectively practiced by all.

That is our philosophy in a nutshell.

Certain material circumstances may be more favorable than others for the cultivation of bhakti, but all considered bhakti is independent and can exert her influence anywhere, on anyone, at any time. If this is true for animal killers like Mrigari the Hunter, than why not for those involved in saving animals—such as Vegans?

I’m not saying anything revolutionary here —nothing against cow’s milk or varnasrama— My point is simply that the practice of bhakti is compatible with a vegan diet. This is just common sense.

brahma

» Posted By brahma dasa On Apr 17, 2014 @ 6:30 pm

The question is not whether prasadam is essential to the practice of Krsna consciousness, but whether milk is essential to the offering of prasadam. The answer is no—milk is not essential.

Bhakti is the essential ingredient of any offering to Krsna.

Srila Prabhupada said that along with patram puspam phalam toyam “some liquid–water or milk” should be offered. Therefore if for health or moral reasons one cannot offer milk than water offered with devotion will suffice.

Of course, it is imperative to save oneself first, but drinking milk is not the prerequisite to salvation in Krsna consciousness. Bhakti is the prerequisite to salvation; indeed bhakti and salvation in Krsna consciousness are synonymous.

Bhakti can save everyone—including Vegans.

That’s our philosophy.

brahma

» Posted By brahma dasa On Apr 14, 2014 @ 4:24 am

To Whom it may concern:

Chanting Hare Krsna is an essential principle of Krsna consciousness—offering and drinking milk is not.

In the quotes provided Srila Prabhupada cites-patram puspam phalam toyam yo me bhaktya prayacchati. Then he says to “take ordinary very nutritious food within the jurisdiction of Krsna-prasada—-And: that within these categories, whatever a devotee offers Me (Krsna) in love and devotion, I eat— And: patram, means vegetables, flowers, fruits, and phalam, fruits, and some liquid, water or milk.”

While milk is in the “jurisdiction” or “category” of Krsna prasada it is not absolutely essential to the offering. Indeed, Srila Prabhupada says that either “water or milk “can be offered. Ultimately the essential ingredient to every offering is bhaktya prayacchati—not milk.

Srila Prabhupada preached in the 60’s and 70’s when vegetarianism in America was in its infancy. Now vegetarianism is considered respectable and the vegan movement, which was unknown in his time, is in the forefront of the campaign against animal cruelty.

Srila Prabhupada said, “We should tax our brains as to what is the best way to present Krsna Consciousness to a particular people at a particular time and place.” (lecture 11/13/70)

To most vegans consuming supermarket milk is an act in support of animal cruelty—and they do have a point. Therefore we should tax our brains to accommodate these particular people (vegans) in this particular time, to the best of our ability. We should let them know that drinking milk is not essential to the practice of bhakti; and we should preach the philosophy of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and live it such, that persons attracted to a cruelty free diet will also be attracted to chanting the holy name of Krsna.

AGAIN: The practice of Krsna consciousness goes perfectly well with a cruelty free vegan diet.

Brahma Das (ACBSP)

» Posted By brahma dasa On Apr 12, 2014 @ 7:49 pm

Srila Prabhupada knew that in the west (and now in India) milk cows were routinely slaughtered. When informed that milk was fortified with fish oil (vitamin D) he put his hands up in resignation and said, “Everything here is contaminated so what can we do.”

Regardless of these drawbacks it is clear that Srila Prabhupada encouraged the offering and consumption of milk. This is because milk products, which make vegetarianism easier and more enjoyable, are an important aspect of his movement of chanting, dancing, and feasting–and of course the scriptures tell us that Krsna is fond of milk products.

The Gita (3.13) says that food offered in sacrifice is free from sin, and (4.24) tells us that a life of sacrifice burns up all sinful activities. So we accept that milk is purified when it is offered with genuine devotion to Krsna. However, not everyone involved in Krsna consciousness is leading a life of complete sacrifice to Visnu; neither is everyone offering all they eat in sacrifice.

Outside of sacrifice the Gita says there are reactions to the things that we do. Therefore we should always remember that cows and their calves are slaughtered to provide the food that we eat more for enjoyment than for nourishment i.e. store bought ice cream, pizza, etc. and rarely is any of this truly offered in sacrifice. Better yet, we should consider giving up these things.

Indeed, vegans occupy the high ground in this regard. While many of us routinely eat unoffered milk products, vegans forgo this in consideration of the cruelty involved. This is laudable.

All considered, it is not necessary to offer and consume milk in order to practice Krsna consciousness therefore vegans should be accommodated and encouraged–not condemned.

brahma

» Posted By brahma dasa On Apr 10, 2014 @ 5:20 pm

Devotees’ use commercially produced milk because it is a concession that was accepted by Srila Prabhupada—but it is not a rule. One does not have to drink or offer milk to practice Krishna consciousness. Bhagavad Gita 9.26 says that devotion (bhaktya prayacchati) is the essential element of any offering to Krsna—milk is not mentioned. Therefore it is not wrong for devotees to forgo commercially produced milk over the cruelty issue. Indeed, boycotting commercially produced milk is a practical way to display compassion for the plight of cows.

The idea that the tortured cows behind the supermarket milk offered to Krsna are benefited seems a bit of a stretch to me. If Srila Prabhupada specifically said this than someone should share the quote. Perhaps the efficacy of bhakti does come into play here—or are we simply rationalizing unnecessary cruelty by promoting this idea. It’s nice to think this…but is it respectable and virtuous to justify cruelty with such theology?

brahma

» Posted By brahma dasa On Apr 8, 2014 @ 7:35 pm

Powerful Food For Thought

Devotee: Śrīla Prabhupāda, should we call all the women “mother”?

Prabhupāda: Yes. And treat it like mother. Not only call, but treat it like mother.

Morning Walk — October 25, 1975, Mauritius:

When I joined Iskcon in 1972 both male and female devotees referred to each other as prabhu. Sometime later in the 70’s (as per the above quote) the men were told that Srila Prabhupada wanted us to address all women as mataji.

So contrary to Visakha Priya dasi’s testimony (posted below) the use of ‘mataji’ was being used in Iskcon during Srila Prabhupada’s time. Indeed, the use of mataji is not generally used in gaudiya math, there the use of di di or sister is more common.

(btw. Pusta Krsna prabhu was with Srila Prabhupada on the above posted morning walk).

“Somehow, in the late nineteen eighties, the “Prabhu/Mataji” syndrome developed, probably as the result of many disgruntled ISKCON devotees taking shelter of India after their gurus’ falldowns. Previous to that, most devotees would only visit India at Gaura Purnima time and we would call one another “Prabhu,” regardless of gender consideration.(Visakha Priya dasi )”

» Posted By brahma dasa On Apr 18, 2013 @ 6:24 pm

Why Veganism in Iskcon does not work, part 2

Where are the sustainable eco-friendly Iskcon cow-protection farms?

The author of this article writes: “I have not actually been able to find a Vegan producing farmstyle that is sustainable and eco friendly that actually follows its credentials. All of the Vegans that I know just shop at supermarkets, their local grocer, a farm shop producing “organic” vegetables and etc.”

The same could be said about Iskcon farms i.e. I have not been able to find an Iskcon cow protection farm that is sustainable. All of the devotees that I know just shop at supermarkets, etc.

Case in point: I was involved in fund raising for an Iskcon farm in the late 1970’s. It had a thriving community and a magnificent commercial dairy herd. The problem was that in order to survive the community and the dairy herd required the support of collections from a team of brahmacaries who lived outside the farm on a bus. Now, forty years later, the farm’s grand commercial dairy is gone, devotees are employed outside the farm, and donations to support cow protection are solicited on the website. To my knowledge this is the situation facing all Iskcon farms.

Service on Iskcon farms is of course bhakti so there is nothing wrong with collecting donations etc. but if a collective farm requires the support of donations and outside employment to survive can it honestly be called a sustainable farm?

So practice what you preach. Create a truly sustainable eco-friendly cruelty free commercial dairy farm that can supply abundant milk to everyone and then implore vegans to drink the cruelty free milk that you offer.

Until then let vegans be vegans, and preach the philosophy of Mahaprabhu and live it such that persons attracted to adopting a cruelty free diet will also be attracted to chanting the holy name of Krsna.

AGAIN: The practice of Vaisnavism goes perfectly well with a cruelty free vegan diet.

Brahma dasa

» Posted By brahma dasa On Mar 28, 2013 @ 1:33 am

Amino acids are different than vitamins. The Oxford American dictionary puts it like this: Amino acids are organic compounds that occur naturally in plant and animal tissues and are the basic constituents of proteins.

Vitamins are organic compounds that are essential for normal growth and nutrition and are required in small quantities in the diet because they cannot be synthesized by the body. Vitamin B12 is a microbe/bacteria produced by microorganisms in the soil.

Suffice to say that doctors and nutritionists believe that an unfortified vegan diet is deficient in essential vitamin B-12, which supports the theory that humans are naturally omnivorous—meant to eat both plants and animals or animal products such as milk.

Still, a vegan diet fortified by B-12 may be healthier than a lacto-vegetarian diet because cholesterol which is mainly derived from animal fat (milk products) contributes to a number of health problems particularly atherosclerosis.

The point is—BALANCE—in both diet and preaching and that’s the problem with this article—-a complete lack of balance, which makes it appear unreasonable and fanatic even to devotees.

AGAIN, there is nothing wrong with a Vaisnava following a vegan diet and boycotting the modern dairy industry. Along with B-12 all a vegan has to do is add Krsna consciousness to his life in order to make it completely perfect.

Brahma dasa

» Posted By brahma dasa On Mar 21, 2013 @ 8:26 pm

Vegan diets have been linked to a multitude of health benefits including lowered cancer and heart disease risks and low blood pressure, cholesterol and obesity rates.

A well-planned vegan diet is generally low in saturated fat, void of cholesterol and high in plant nutrients but it’s true that one essential vitamin the diet is deficient in is B12. This vitamin generally found in animal products (such as milk) is used by the human body to create DNA and keep red blood cells and nerve cells healthy. Vegans can get this vitamin from fortified cereals, brewers yeast, tofu and other sources including supplements.

So a case can be made that human beings are naturally meant to eat animals or animal products, indeed the fact that humans have two canine teeth support the notion that they are naturally meant to eat meat. While the body can certainly be sustained by a carnivorous diet devotees are interested in more than mere maintenance, they are interested in developing the quality of mercy in order to make spiritual advancement. Indeed, the the quality of mercy is essential to genuine spiritual practice.

Devotees cultivate mercy by following a lacto-vegetarian prasadam diet and vegans cultivate mercy by following a pure vegetarian diet. Devotees who don’t have access to cruelty-free milk may as there conscience dictates follow a vegan prasadam diet in protest to the cruelty of factory farming. By not drinking milk they practice a different form of cow protection, one that discourages the breeding of animals for slaughter.

All considered the cultivation of the quality of Mercy is the common ground between devotees and vegans. This should be respected by both parties and built upon, and until devotees can provide cruelty-free milk there is no need to preach to vegans to become lacto-vegetarians. Instead let Vegans be vegans and inspire them to be Vaisnavas through purity of devotion.

Again, Vaisnavism is perfectly compatible with a vegan diet.

Brahma dasa

» Posted By brahma dasa On Mar 21, 2013 @ 1:15 am

Mercy/cruelty free–a universal religious principle

Animal slaughter/meat eating is one of the four pillars of sinful life. This practice destroys ‘mercy’ and is so much more harmful then the other pillars that Srila Prabhupada said that if a disciple resumed their old sinful habits (intoxication, illicit sex etc.) he or she should still be considered a Vaisnava unless they ate meat.

Devotees have always preached against animal slaughter but it was PETA and similar secular organizations that were most successful in packaging and promoting the message throughout mainstream society because the concept of being ‘cruelty free’ resonates with everyone. It transcends economic/political/religious divisions and has made the vegan lifestyle fashionable worldwide. WHY?

Because being ‘cruelty free’ or merciful to other living entities is a universal religious, spiritual, and ethical principle, one that Vaisnavas have cherished and promoted since the beginning of time.

That’s why diatribes like these two embarrassing articles against Vegans in Iskcon are ill conceived.

While devotees differ with many vegans on details, the practice of Vaisnavism remains perfectly compatible with a vegan diet, and Vaisnavas are 100% in agreement with the principle of MERCY to animals, which is the foundation of the vegan movement.

Brahma dasa

» Posted By brahma dasa On Mar 20, 2013 @ 1:31 am

Why Veganism does not work in Iskcon

Seeing that the Māyāvādīs and others were fleeing, Lord Caitanya thought, “I wanted everyone to be immersed in this inundation of love of Godhead, but some of them have escaped. Therefore I shall devise a trick to drown them also.” (Adi 7.31-32)

Purport: Here is an important point.….spread Kṛṣṇa consciousness by adopting ways and means that are favorable for this purpose.

The Sunday Feast was established to introduce people to Krsna consciousness–so rather than of turning off vegans to Krsna bhakti why not accommodate them by offering plainly marked Vegan options at the Sunday feast? (Vegan fare offered to Krsna is just as much prasadam as milk products offered to Krsna.) Thus vegans would be encouraged to chant and associate with devotees–which would certainly satisfy Mahaprabhu’s desire to inundate everyone (even Vegans) in love of God as expressed in (Adi 7.31-32).

And there is nothing appasiddanta about being a vegan–so unless you can provide a cruelty-free alternative there is no necessity to preach to vegans to consume animal products.

AGAIN: There is absolutely no reason that a Vegan cannot practice Krsna consciousness and make a complete spiritual success of his life.

Brahma dasa

» Posted By brahma dasa On Mar 11, 2013 @ 9:23 pm

There is no reason whatsoever that a vegan cannot become a devotee of Krishna.

Scripture says that Krishna is fond of milk products. Still, one does not have to drink milk or offer milk to Krishna in order to be a devotee. Bhagavad-gita says, patram puspam phalam toyam—that if one offers to him with devotion a leaf, flower, water, or fruit, then he will accept it. The main ingredient mentioned in this verse is devotion, bhaktya prayacchati. It is the bhakti in the offering that satisfies Krishna. Therefore, if someone refrains from offering milk to Krishna because of conscientious objections over inhumane dairy farming methods, there is no harm.

On the other hand, I don’t believe that all devotees should be mandated to boycott milk in opposition to the terrible cruelty factory farming; rather they should follow their conscience in this regard. However, whenever possible devotees should avoid buying milk from companies that grossly mistreat cows, even if milk from more humane companies is costlier. Fortunate are those who can alter their lifestyle in this regard.

Otherwise, one does not need to offer and consume milk in order to practice devotional service. A person can be vegan and still be a devotee of Krishna, but he or she should aspire to be a bhakta first and foremost, and a vegan, vegetarian, fruitarian, or whatever second. A bhakta is a person who values devotion to Krishna above all else.

Brahma dasa (ACBSP)

» Posted By brahma dasa On Mar 10, 2013 @ 5:55 am

New ISKCON Property Purchased in California

Dear Akruranath Prabhu,

Obviously, ISV under the leadership of Vaisesika Prabhu (and yourself) is presenting Krsna consciousness in an effective and sensitive manner. While I personally found the Swami’s disingenuous remark distasteful I admit that it may have had some utility at the time; even though the statement “We Know Nothing about Hinduism” cannot be found on any official Iskcon website.

As for purdah, dowry, child marriage, forced widowhood, denial of education, and the rest, these are all classified internationally as human rights abuses and are illegal even in India (and rightly so). At times Srila Prabhupada offered reasoning in support of some of these practices as they existed in ancient Vedic civilization but he never attempted to institute any of them in his organization.

We don’t live in ancient Vedic civilization; we live in present day Northern California where such strictures are universally abhorred. Neither will you find any devotees here or elsewhere interested in subjecting their beloved daughters to purdah, child marriage, forced widowhood, denial of education and the like, even though support for these things might be found somewhere in the dharma sastras. Neither are any of these socio-religious trappings in any way essential to the practice of Krsna consciousness

Therefore I see no need to tap dance around such a question. The straightforward answer is: Yes, women in India and elsewhere have suffered much abuse in the name of religion, but our philosophy teaches that ancient socio-religious strictures against women should be discarded in favor of essential spirituality (sarva-dharman parityajya).

Simply put, we are absolutely against the abuse of women in the name of Hinduism; and the practice of Krsna consciousness is open to everyone regardless of race, gender, or their socio-political views.

All the best, brahma

» Posted By brahma dasa On Aug 4, 2012 @ 5:16 pm

Akruranatha Prabhu,

What I’m hearing from you here is that you were enlivened by how cleverly the Swami sidestepped an embarrassing question at the Q and A booth at SF Rathayatra.

The problem I have with this is the lady or anyone else who heard the Swami’s reply could within minutes know that he was being disingenuous.

She could go to Krishna.com and learn “ISKCON is a branch of the Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition within Hinduism.”

Or she could go to Iskcon.org and read “Krsna consciousness is the Heart of Hinduism.”

Or she could go to Tovp.org and hear that Iskcon is “building the largest Hindu temple in the world.”

Or by asking any of the Hindu Americans attending the festival she would know they almost all believed Iskcon a branch of Hinduism.

So while the Swami’s remark may have had some utility at the time it is certainly not worth publicizing on the internet as a brilliant way to blow off a controversial question.

Better to acknowledge the downside of Hinduism (or Iskcon) with some humility, admitting the problems and the need to address them. After all the essence of Hindu spirituality is of course Krsna consciousness; it is not purdah, dowry, child marriage, forced widowhood, selective female abortions, denial of education and opportunity, and all the other forms of abuse that women in India have had to contend with for centuries.

All glories to Iskcon of Silicon Valley!

brahma

» Posted By brahma dasa On Jul 30, 2012 @ 8:22 pm

Lady: Do Hindus treat women as second-class citizens the way Muslim groups do?

Jayadvaita Swami: I do not know much about what Hindus do.

The Swami’s answer to the Lady’s question is diplomatic but disingenuous (not candid or sincere, typically by pretending that one knows less about something than one really does).

Every devotee knows that the answer to this question is– yes, by and large Hindus treat women as second class citizens

The question then is–Are women in Iskcon being treated as second class citizens?

The answer (I hope)–Not at Iskcon in Silicon Valley

Congratulations to Iskcon of Silicon Valley–a new beginning!

brahma dasa

» Posted By brahma dasa On Jul 26, 2012 @ 6:59 pm

The Vegetarian and Vegan Myth

Scripture says that Krsna is fond of milk products. Still, one does not have to drink milk or offer milk to Krsna in order to be a devotee. Bhagavad-gita says, patram puspam phalam toyam, that if one offers to Krsna with devotion a leaf, flower, water, or fruit, then he will accept it. The main ingredient mentioned in this verse is devotion, bhaktya prayacchati. It is the bhakti in the offering that satisfies Krsna. Therefore, there is no offense if one refrains from offering milk to Krsna because of conscientious objections over inhumane dairy farming methods. Krsna conscious ahimsa is not a bad thing.

On the other hand, I don’t believe that all devotees should be mandated to boycott milk in opposition to factory farming; rather they should follow their conscience in this regard. However, I do believe that a dynamic understanding of cow protection implies that whenever possible devotees should avoid buying milk from companies that grossly mistreat cows, even if milk from more humane companies is costlier. Fortunate are those few devotees who have been able to alter their lifestyles around scripture and cow protection such that “cruelty free” milk prasadam is always available to them.

Otherwise, one does not necessarily need to offer and consume milk in order to practice devotional service. A person can be vegan and still be a devotee of Krsna, but he or she should aspire to be a bhakta first and foremost, and a vegan, vegetarian, fruitarian, or whatever second. A bhakta is a person who values devotion to Krsna above all else.

» Posted By brahma dasa On Jun 12, 2012 @ 7:56 pm

Murder and Mayhem in Mumbai

When the riot occurred I was serving in Hare Krishna Land in the ‘Life Membership’ department and as Shyamasundara dasa related the bad press we received made it almost impossible to enlist new life members for some weeks afterward. At the time I was rooming with the temple sankirtana leader Janardana dasa and because of his intuition we managed to avoid the police lineup and perhaps subsequent incarceration. That was because when the call came for devotees to attend the lineup Janardana whispered to me that that this was going to be a “a setup” and we shouldn’t go. So instead of attending the lineup we simply ducked back into our room, locked the door, and read the Bhagavatam until the whole thing was over. Sure enough—the lineup proved to be crooked.

Otherwise, I can’t vouch for everything written in the article, as I wasn’t privilege to all that went on behind the scenes. However, I do know that the part of the story about Janardana and Gauranga is not entirely correct.

It’s true that Janardana and Gauranga were caught in the mob but fortunately they both escaped unbeaten and mostly unharmed as the mob was never able to get to them in the car. When the mob began breaking the car’s windows Janardana screamed, “go” and Gauranga blew the horn, stepped on the gas and floored it. Miraculously—when the car launched forward the mob in front of it parted like the proverbial ‘red sea’ and the heroes made their getaway without anyone in or out of the car getting seriously hurt.

brahma dasa

» Posted By brahma dasa On Aug 22, 2011 @ 1:44 am

My Brief Against Feminism

Thakura Bhaktivinode wrote that in exceptional cases women can accept the brahmacharya and sannyasa ashramas. Apparently, Srila Prabhupada considered the women in his movement to be exceptional enough to accept them in the bramacharini asrama, which he admitted was ‘not Vedic’. He defended this position against all critics, particularly those who used the argument that what he had done in this case (and others) was not done by, and thus would not be acceptable to his own spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta.

The arguments on this thread are in exactly the same vane. Basically they are—Srila Prabhupada didn’t do it so it can’t be done. Never mind that (mentioning Jahnava devi) Srila Prabhupada specifically told the professor that women can be gurus. Never mind that Jahnava devi was a diksa guru as well as a siksa guru; and never mind that the precedent in Gaudiya Vaisnavism is in acceptance of women diksa gurus. Finally, never mind that in numerous cases Srila Prabhupada broke with tradition and established practices that were unheard of in his spiritual masters institution.

If the argument is used that Iskcon women cannot give diksa because they are not as qualified as Jahnava devi, then the same standard should be applied to Iskcon men. Are Iskcon men who give diksa as qualified as Jahnava devi?

Otherwise, no one here has presented any verse from scripture that specifically prohibits women giving diksa. There are however numerous verses stating that women can become suddha-bhaktas.
Is this not the real qualification for giving diksa? Indeed Madhya 8.128–kiba vipra, kiba nyasi, sudra kene naya yei krsna-tattva-vetta, sei ‘guru’ haya–rejects the idea that there is a material qualification for being guru. Tellingly, Prabhupada writes in the purport to this verse, “Everyone is capable of becoming a spiritual master because knowledge in Krsna consciousness is on the platform of the spirit soul.” This is the real reason why Vaisnavis can give diksa—because Vaisnavism is on the platform of the spirit—not on the platform of the body.

brahma dasa

» Posted By brahma dasa On May 29, 2011 @ 5:51 pm

oops, I wrote brahmachari instead of brahmacharini. So the last sentence should read:

Indeed, in consideration modern social norms Srila Prabhupada broke tradition and Vedic rules on the matter when he established the brahmacharini ashrama in his society.

Brahma

» Posted By brahma dasa On Apr 30, 2011 @ 10:44 pm

There is absolutely no prohibition in Gaudiya Vaisnavism against women becoming diksa gurus.

This is proven by the fact that in times past a number of women were lauded as diksa gurus in the Gaudiya tradition. The most prominent being Jahnava Ma and Gangamata Goswamini.

Srila Prabhupada’s purport to (SB 4.12.32) indicates that traditionally mothers do not give diksa to their sons. However, one should not identify spirituality with the social norms that were prevalent in previous centuries. Cultural considerations like these were transcended to some extent in Mahaprabhu’s time in light of his emphasis on essential spirituality. Therefore, there was no prohibition against Jahnava-devi being diksa-guru for her nephew/stepson Virabhadra and other spiritual luminaries of the time. More women diksa-gurus followed her in succession and other women also initiated in various other Gaudiya Vaisnava lineages.

In regards to this issue of Women and sannyasa, Thakura Bhaktivinoda has written the following in Shri Chaitanya-shikshamrita 2/4: “There are no ashramas acceptable by women other then the householder (grihastha) ashrama or in specific cases as per time, place and circumstance the vanaprastha ashrama. Of course there can be some exceptional rare cases when an extraordinary and greatly advanced woman in bhakti can accept the brahmacharya and sannyasa ashramas and make a success of her spiritual life. But in the normal and general case, these ashramas are not meant for women because of their delicate faith, delicate body and delicate intelligence.”

Here Bhaktivinoda specifically states that in exceptional cases a greatly advanced woman in bhakti can accept the brahmacharya and sannyasa ashramas and make a success of her spiritual life. He reasons here that ordinarily women do not take sannyasa because they are “delicate” in a number of ways—which are of course material reasons. He does not cite any spiritual reasons. Today’s women are not so delicate—so other than tradition there is no real reason why a woman cannot take some type of sannyasa—as in the example of Gangamata Goswamini. Indeed, in consideration modern social norms Srila Prabhupada broke tradition and Vedic rules on the matter when he established the brahmachari ashrama in his society.

Brahma dasa

» Posted By brahma dasa On Apr 30, 2011 @ 5:34 pm

Proper Gender Roles in ISKCON Must be Authoritatively and Clearly Defined

“As far as possible, thats all.”

Sita Ram dasa,

You are certainly correct; according to Srila Prabhupada we follow varnasrama “as far as possible, that’s all.” Although some aspects of varnasrama may be helpful, overall the system and the social rules that govern it are external to the practice of Krsna consciousness, so says Mahaprabhu in his discussion with Ramananda Roya. The point, according to Srila Rupa Goswami, is not Varnasrama dharma, Stri-dharma, or some other dharma, but to somehow or other to think of Krsna; who by the way says exactly this—sarva-dharman parityajya, to Arjuna in Bhagavad Gita.

Practically speaking there are details and there are principles. Chanting Hare Krsna is a fundamental principle of Krsna consciousness, but the particulars of marriage and social life fall well within the realm of detail, and are thus subject to reasonable adjustments. This is what Srila Prabhupada did in many instances with regard to the role of women in his movement. He did so in regard to deity worship, the brahmacarini asrama, and even though he often stated that women required the protection of fathers, husbands, or sons, he nevertheless approved of starting a separate ashram for women under the supervision of his disciples Yamuna and Dinatarini.

Srila Prabhupada said, “So at the present moment we cannot strictly follow [the Vedic culture]; neither we are strictly following; neither it is possible to strictly follow. As far as possible, that’s all.”

» Posted By brahma dasa On Nov 26, 2010 @ 7:48 pm

Outer Space or Inner? – De Ville with an Aura

Don’t be too ‘starry eyed’ over Auroville as from its inception the community has gone though tremendous turmoil. Ultimately it was stabilized when the Government of India took it over in 1988. The Auroville Foundation, an autonomous body created by an Act of Parliament, now administers it. Here is what a follower of Aurobindo and supporter of Auroville had to say.

The wonderful ideal of Auroville filled everyone with inspiration, and they built schools, dispensaries, industries, and began work on Matrimandir, the nucleus of Auroville, the consciousness and soul of Auroville’s body. 
But as soon as the ‘courtship’ period was over, the true colours of the people were beginning to show. Differences of opinion led to the acute awareness of differences of races and cultures and nationalities; conspiracies lay concealed undercover of plea for change; ambition masqueraded as responsibility. Somewhere a breach began and the great virtues of confidence, trust and faith came crumbling down. People tried desperately to stick together, in small groups, to hold on somehow until the crisis was over. But the distant thunder of disunity, disharmony, corruption and violence came nearer and shattered every heart and home.

None could find any solution to the venomous problems at Auroville. But how can one do it in the constant din of violence, threats, intimidation, victimization, expulsions, abuses, and animosity? The harrowing, nightmarish experiences of all these years have made some people wiser, some quieter and others frustrated and disillusioned. The children of Auroville have had to face the brunt of the whole onslaught.

The inner progress and success of Auroville will be symbolized in the progress and completion of Matrimandir. It is “the symbol of the Divine’s answer to man’s aspiration for perfection. Union with the Divine manifesting in a progressive human unity.” — declared the Mother. So, the Aurovilians bear a great responsibility: if they want to participate in the creation of this world that is to be born, they can do successfully only when they learn to surrender themselves completely and consciously to the Divine Mother. Only then can Auroville march forward and solve its own problems and help humanity to solve its problems.

For discussion sake. Does anyone notice any parallel here with the Iskcon experience.

Brahma

» Posted By brahma dasa On Mar 21, 2010 @ 9:42 pm

Myth Creation Begun

Bhaktivinoda Thakura taught that the svarupa is inherent within the jiva and in this sense is predetermined. Caitanya-caritamrta describes this as follows: krsna prema nitya siddha sadhya kabhu nay sravanadi suddha cite karaye udaya “Krsna prema is eternally existing. It is not something that is attained as a result of spiritual practice. Through the spiritual practices of hearing, chanting, remembering, and so on, one’s heart is cleansed and prema awakens therein.”

The Gaudiya Vaisnava sampradaya is a lineage that facilitates the development of love for Krsna in Vrndavana. Thus souls destined for this kind of love of God are attracted to the Gaudiya lineage. In its wide-scale propaganda Mahaprabhu’s movement may touch all kinds of jiva souls, including those destined for devotion in awe and reverence in Vaikuntha.

However, Srila Prabhupada gave his disciples the Gaura mantra and Krsna mantra at the time of initiation. (One’s ista devata is the Deity propitiated in one’s diksa mantras–as addressed in Hari-bhakti-vilasa) Thus, the istadeva for the vast majority of Srila Prabhupada’s disciples, grandisciples, and so on is Krsna, who has appeared in this age as Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. While there will always be exceptions—it’s safe to say that the vast majority of initiated devotees in the Krsna consciousness movement are destined to someday enter Krsna lila in Vrndavana.

Brahma

» Posted By brahma dasa On Jun 27, 2010 @ 2:27 am

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